'Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage' by Norman L Richardson
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The following article has been contributed by the author Norman L Richardson. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.
This article is copyright © 1997 Norman L Richardson and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the author. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the author. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.
Education for Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritageby Norman L Richardson
Most Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland have been educated
apart from each other and have had few opportunities to meet and
to learn to trust each other. Some people have seen this as a
significant obstacle to community peace and reconciliation in
this part of Ireland.
Over the past few years, however, various educational projects have grown up to provide children and young people with new opportunities to build up relationships based on confidence and friendship.
Knowing what school someone went to in Northern Ireland is an
effective means of discovering whether someone is from a Protestant
(unionist/British) background of a Catholic (nationalist/Irish)
background. (Protestant and Catholic are often used in Northern
Ireland as shorthand terms to describe people's cultural and community
background, and they do not necessarily indicate a specific religious
affiliation.) Catholic parents are strongly encouraged by the
Catholic Church to send their children to Catholic Schools (the
vast majority of which are now fully state funded), and almost
all do. Protestant parents normally send their children to Controlled
schools which are not "Protestant Schools" as such but
in which the influences and ethos are fundamentally Protestant
(in the broadest cultural sense). Although there has been a small
number of local areas where shared schooling is taking place,
the predominant reality has been that of two parallel separate
school systems. Government figures indicate that 95% of children
still attend the schools of "their own community".
In recent years a number of planned Integrated Schools - for Protestants and Catholics together - have grown up. The first of these was established in 1981, and at the time of writing (June 1997) there are 33 - eleven for Secondary-age pupils and the others for Primary-age children - with more due to open in the next few months. So far, however, these schools account for only around 2%-3% of the school population (about 7,000 children), although their influence is growing slowly.
Building on the work of individual teachers and schools of voluntary
(not-for-profit) organisations and of experimental curriculum
projects over many years, the Department of Education for Northern
Ireland (DENI) has since the early 1980's promoted in all kinds
of schools the development of educational programmes to encourage
better community relations. Since 1983 the umbrella title of Education
for Mutual Understanding has bee adopted to cover these various
activities. This work relates closely to programmes found in other
countries, such as multicultural or intercultural education for
citizenship and peace education.
In 1987 DENI introduced a voluntary inter-school Cross Contact
Scheme which provides funds to support planned and long-term contact
programmes between controlled and maintained schools. Presently
between one-third and one-half of all schools in Northern Ireland
are taking part in this scheme, although the numbers of pupils
involved varies considerably from place to place.
In the Government's Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order
of 1989, six mandatory educational (cross curricular) themes were
introduced, including the two complementary themes of Education
for Mutual Understanding (EMU) and Cultural Heritage (CH). These
formally came into statute in September 1992.
EMU and CH have been defined as being fundamentally about "learning
to live with differences in a spirit of acceptance, fairness and
mutual respect" (Richardson, 1996). This definition is elaborated
by four shared objectives which may be summarised as follows:
As compulsory themes in the Northern Ireland Curriculum, EMU and
CH must be addressed by all teachers of all subjects throughout
each stage of education although the content of certain subjects
is clearly more relevant that that of others. EMU is also very
significant as a whole school process in relation to ethos and
pastoral dimensions of school life. Voluntary cross-community
contact programmes between separate schools are encouraged as
a valuable dimension of EMU, but they are not required by law.
If they are to be effective, EMU and CH must relate to the broad
curriculum within and between schools.
Some excellent work has been carried out in recent years in relation
to EMU and CH, but those involved in this field recognise that
what is required is a long term commitment and continuity if there
is to be any hope of widespread benefit from the various programmes.
For further background information see "Who's Who in EMU and Cultural Heritage, published annually by the focus group.
Richardson, N.L. (1996): A Rational for Education for Mutual Understanding
and Cultural Heritage (chapter of forthcoming book), Belfast,
Queen's University School of Education.
CCEA (1997):Mutual Understanding and Cultural Heritage:Guidance
Materials, Belfast, Northern Ireland Council for Curriculum, Examinations
Focus (1996);Who's Who in EMU and Cultural Heritage?, Belfast,
Forum on Community Understanding and Schools.
This article was written by:
Norman L Richardson
CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
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